Back to Italy:: Air Travel during a Pandemic

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Some of you might be curious to know how my trip back to Italy was with the pandemic.

First off, let me tell you all how I could enter the EU. So many people commented on social media asking me how. Is there a trick? How can I enter Italy? No trick! The simple answer is that only EU residents and citizens may enter. Everyone must self-quarantine for 14 days. I am an Italian resident, so I was able to enter without any issues.

The tale of traveling here was pretty straight forward. I booked a late flight at 11:00 pm with KLM. I purchased a first-class seat, thinking that it would be a safer way to fly. The scariest part of the entire trip was the Atlanta Airport TSA line. I checked in at the international terminal around 9:00 pm. Not a soul at the counter. I wore an N95 mask through the entire airport. When I entered the TSA, there was only one line with no priority line. Everyone was masked, although I did see a lot of bandanas and buffs (you all know those are dangerous right?).

There were clearly demarcated spots on the floor for distancing and everyone stood on their spot. Well except one guy in a wheelchair with his daughter who was pushing me, so I let them ahead. But once we hit the TSA conveyor belt, it was a free for all. No distancing, grabbing, pushing. It was a nightmare! I did everything I could to step away and wait for a moment where there was no one attacking the belt as belongings piled out. I grabbed my stuff and headed for a corner with no one around to get my stuff together. It shook me up. Once I got to my gate, I seated myself all alone in the corner, mask on at all times and waited to board. Now the boarding process that was marvelous. It was so good, in fact, I hope they never bring back to the old way of boarding.

Here’s how it went: one section at a time, you entered the plane individually, and everyone had to remain seated while they called your name. I boarded alone, walked up to my seat, and no one was seated near me. We had 77 people on giant jumbo jet, so there was plenty of distancing. I quickly changed into a more comfortable cloth mask and waited to depart. I slept the entire way and woke up in Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, everyone in the airport was wearing a mask. I headed to Passport Control to enter the EU. Everyone kept a good distance, and everyone was calm and focused. Security in Amsterdam was well monitored, and everyone was at a distance, filing in one at a time. It was very safe and organized.

I headed to my gate, on the departures board it had a B0 which was different. Usually, the Pisa flight leaves from the C concourse. When I arrived at B0, I realized it was a screening gate. Everyone had temperatures taken. We filled out a tracing form and then headed to our Gate in the C concourse. I sat quietly waiting for my seat and section to be called for the Pisa flight. Everything was very smooth with loading the plane. We all had several seats between us and were not allowed to remove our masks.

When I landed, I was picked up by our car service, Tuscan Drivers, and they whisked me away. The driver wearing an N95 mask I sat in the back. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I was at La Fortezza.  Where I will be quarantining for 14 days.

Lucky for me, the crew finished the new pool just in time, so I have had some relaxing days swimming. Flying and travel will never be the same (well at least for a few years). But here are the things I hope remain when all of this has passed:

  1. Boarding by section and seat (would be extra nice, but I doubt that will remain). Everyone remaining seated until your zone is called. It was wonderful not standing in the giant crowd.
  2. Spotless planes. The KLM plane was brand new and spotless; they cleaned the bathroom every time it was used. YES PLEASE, (sorry but instead of sitting in the back of the plane gossiping, maybe cleaning the bathrooms might be a nice thing for flight attendants to do for the passengers, just saying)
  3. Distancing. All about it.
  4. Mindful lines at TSA. TSA USA could perhaps take lessons from the TSA EU

I am happy to be here prepping for our photo-shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook.

I will let you all know how that went, masking, washing and distancing all while shooting a cookbook in Italy.

xx Annette

 

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July Recap:: Lots of things and offerings

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Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…

Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update

The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.

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Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool

We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.

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Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food

I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

 

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Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version

July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.

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Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update

I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.

Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.

xx Annette

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NOW AVAILABLE: Italy is My Boyfriend

Copy of Confetti Annette (1) 71eEt76QB3L I am thrilled to announce my memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, is finally here! I am so excited to share my adventures in Italy with you.

To celebrate, I am hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. The winner will receive all three of my books, signed. Head over to my Instagram feed to enter!

Frances Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, will be joining me on my Instagram Live, Thursday May 28th at noon. We will be discussing her latest book, Always Italy, as well as my book, Italy is My Boyfriend. I cannot wait to chat all things Italy with Frances! Grab your lunch and join us on Thursday.

Additionally, plan to join me and editor in chief of Atlanta Magazine, Betsy Riley for a virtual talk in partnership with the Atlanta History Center on June 18, 2020 at 7 PM. Find more information here. 

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Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy

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It might seem hard to wrap your head around, but the time to book your summer travel for Italy is NOW. As a result, I am reviving an older post which includes everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy.

I think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one-stop-shop for all of the information you need to know. It’s a FAQ page of sorts, and you can use it to reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2020 summer workshops are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Preserving Italy Workshop:: the slow food experience

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We just wrapped up the Slow Food Experience workshop, and I must say it was a wonderful experience not only for our attendees but for me too. We visited food artisans in the area and sampled local food like panigacci and chestnut fritters, and with the help of my foodie friends, I think we represented the region of the Lunigiana proudly.

There are so many interesting and different local foods here. It’s so different, in fcct, that I am writing my next cookbook about it (keep your eyes peeled for the La Fortezza Cookbook, due out in 2021). It is a region rich in history and food history with many kitchens born out of need and lack of funds; the “poor kitchen,” or as they call it, “cucina povere” was creative and inspired.

We made pasta with Chef Philip using jarred tomato sauce, (passata) from our kitchen garden tomatoes. We made grape jam with my friend and slow food ambassador, Giovanna, and sampled bread from the local bread maker Fabio

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We enjoyed chestnut fritters with chestnut honey and dined on all the products from around the area breakfast lunch and dinner, and of course many aperitivos…

This workshop will be available next year. All workshops for 2020 will post in November. We would love for you to join us and sample all the local food products and meet all the lovely people that work so hard to preserve the traditions of this beautiful region.

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Thanks to all the attended and we really loved meeting your eating with all of you. See you next year.x

Some imagery is from our team photographer Kate Blohm

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